3 Hiking Hacks For Women
I recently spent fifty days completing a thru-hike (or in local vernacular, an ‘end to end’) of the Bibbulmun Track (the Bibb), in Western Australia.
The Track winds from Perth to Albany, taking in everything from forest to beach to small rural towns along the way. It was my first long distance hiking experience (to be honest, the longest multi-day hike I’d done previously was a two nighter about a month before I set off on the Bibb - I’m ambitious!) and I learned a LOT along the way. Lots of those things were personal - like, I get sick of sugary snacks very quickly - or Bibb specific - like, if it’s windy in the right (or wrong?) direction, the rain will blow into the shelters and you’re better off on the top bunk (I learned that one the hard way). But there were a few things I learned that could apply to any and all hiking trips, that I thought I’d share with you...
1. You can make a bridge out of a stick
Along the track, it being early spring and following on from one of the wettest winters in many years, there were a lot of small creeks or waterways to cross, or just flooded flats. Some places had footbridges, but many smaller wet areas were just…wet. 10cm of water doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re walking in trail runners, that’s enough to cover the top of your shoe and render your feet soaked in an instant. Enter, the stick bridge. I just loved how you could pick up a medium size fallen branch, or even a couple of smaller sticks, and lay them on the ground. When you step on them, the length of them spreads the pressure so the ground doesn’t sink as much as it would with a tip-toe pressing on it, and the width of the stick manages to raise your feet a few centimeters – often this was enough to get across completely dry. It really helped to be walking with hiking poles, as they assisted greatly in the balancing act required to edge along a few sticks.
2. Women – you can pee standing up
This was literally a mind-blowing lesson to learn, and probably my favourite lesson of the track. My whole life I’ve been peeing in the bush by doing a full squat. (I grew up with enough paddocks and bush surrounding me that I’m fairly experienced in the field). It bugged me that walking along the track, the guys didn’t have to do anything – didn’t have to take their pants off, didn’t have to take their packs off, didn’t even bother to get off the track sometimes, just turned their backs and let it go. Me on the other hand, had to take my pack off – unclipping and loosening about 6 straps – bush bash into a spot that provided shelter from eyes that could walk past at any time, but also had enough of a clearing that I could do a full squat without getting poked in the butt cheek with a stick, pull my pants all the way to my ankles and then let it go. Plus everything again in reverse. Then I discovered that this was all unnecessary effort – I could do it standing up too, without even taking my pack off, or even loosening it. The trick is to do a semi squat, and tilt your pelvis to aim the flow backwards – your pants don’t actually need to be down very far. When you imagine this, you think that you’ll pee on your pants, but trust me – you don’t (at least, I didn’t – not even once!). I actually found that I got less splash-back onto my shoes in this semi-upright position than I did with a full squat - less effort and less splash? It’s a win. Get on it, girls.
3. Soak your dinner during the day
I wanted to eat a hot dinner every night like many others on the track. Unlike many others though, I didn’t want to either a) eat premade, preservative-filled freeze-dried food every night, or b) spend lots of time and gas in actually cooking things. I’d already heard that dehydrated peas take a long time to cook, and even dehydrated mushrooms need some time to simmer before they are soft. Enter, the pre-hydration. I got a little screw top container (which I also used overnight to soak my breakfast) and in the morning, I’d pop whatever dehydrated veggies I wanted for dinner in there with a bit of water. Carry it all day, and come dinner time, they are soft and juicy and all you have to do is drain out the cold water and add them to your already-hot-dinner and it’s as though they are freshly cooked. (Well, not quite, but you tend to have lowered standards while thru-hiking). FYI, an example of a track dinner for me was freeze-dried rice or gluten free couscous, with TVP (textured vegetable or soy protein) or a sachet of tuna, and pre-soaked dehydrated mushrooms and peas. Boil water, add all the things, stir and sit for a few minutes. Top with powdered parmesan cheese (keeps for many days at room temp in a ziplock bag) and a slug of olive oil (I carried a little 100ml bottle). THE BEST DINNER ON THE TRACK! Protein, fat, carbs, veggies, flavour - I literally never got sick of this dinner.